We all have a story we have written about how our lives are going so far. We have dialog and drama, all of the necessary pieces for a decent feature-length film. The thing is, would you want to watch it? If you did watch your film, would you recognize yourself? How much of it is true and how much of it are embellishments added for drama?
Your story is your perception. It’s how you see the world from your point of view. Your inner voice is the creator and narrator of your story. She guides you through decision making and problem-solving and decides how you feel about things. Unfortunately, we have a tendency to listen to the negative side of this inner voice, our inner Mean Girl (as Melissa Ambrosini calls it). If you let her take over, your perception will suffer. This leads to limiting beliefs, poor choices, and unempowered attitudes.
If your story is that your life is fantastic, even if you don’t have the best of everything, your life will be fantastic. If your story is that your life sucks, even if you have the best of everything, your life will suck. Simple as that.
Change your story, change your life.
This is a phrase gleaned from a lecture given by Joan Borysenko, Ph.D. at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. In this lecture, she talked about how our story–our perception of life–can determine our health. It is the concept of mind-body medicine which is what my company, Nourish Me Wellness, is based on. Your thoughts determine how healthy you are, or aren’t, both mentally and physically.
It isn’t just our attitudes that are affected by the traffic, our whole body is affected. Luckily, we determine how we react to the traffic. Shut that Mean Girl up and let’s dive in.
Let me give you an example of how simple, yet powerful changing your thoughts can be. Just this morning I was woken by my child coming in to snuggle with me. This doesn’t happen very often, as she is a good sleeper. Due to the time change, it was still dark outside and my internal clock hadn’t woken me yet. Additionally, it was 5:15 am…too early for me to be stirring.
Normally I get up before her to start my day slowly and peacefully. I have my coffee and my quiet time and get most of my productive writing done in this hour before I have to wake her up for school. If she gets up early it is usually a slight annoyance. I don’t get my peaceful, productive morning routine accomplished and I feel off, and therefore grumpy, for the whole day.
This morning, however, I decided to change my story. Snuggling in a warm bed with my precious little girl was super comfy and beautiful. I still got my quiet start, just in a little different way. Plus, I got lots of hugs and kisses and she gets to feel good all day, too. The only sacrifice is this blog got published a little later than normal. No big deal when looking at the whole picture.
Remember back in December when we were talking about Expectations? We said that expectations kill joy. When we walk into a situation expecting it to be a certain way, and then it doesn’t happen the way we imagine, we are disappointed and maybe even bitter. This is an example of a story.
If the party (meeting, picnic, first date, coffee with a friend) isn’t meeting your expectations, not only is your experience wrecked, other people can pick up on your bitterness, too. Not only are you not having any fun, you are also the crabby, control-freak lady who isn’t much fun to hang out with. It’s a great way to push people away. I’m speaking from experience here.
On the other hand, if you change your story and walk into a situation without expectations, you are open to whatever might happen. This allows you to really experience the moment as it is, without ruining it. If you are dead set on everything living up to your expectations, you might miss out on something even better than you could have imagined. All because of your story.
Ever notice how no two people ever have the same story when asked to remember something? Couples may even have different stories about how they met each other. I mean, they were both there, right? This is due to differing perceptions.
Your mindset, history, mood, and possibly even what you ate can change your story. Dr. Libby Weaver (M.D.) talks about people’s perception of stress. This is how stressful you perceive a situation to be, and it’s different for everyone.
Your perception of the traffic, the temperature, or how busy your weekend was might be completely different than the people whom you experienced these things with. This is your story. Stress is perceived. So is happiness. We can alter it by changing our story.
Change Your Story
If how we experience things is up to us, who’s to say we can’t change it? If we look at things in a little different way, could our whole story change? Absolutely! Here’s how:
- Change how you talk to yourself. What do you say to yourself when you have a slip? For example: You ate the whole pint of ice cream…again. What do you say to yourself? “Ugh, I did it again! Why can’t I stop myself? I’m terrible! Now my diet is ruined,” What if you said, “Alright, I just finished that pint. Well, let’s take steps to make better choices tomorrow.” Treat yourself how you would treat your best friend. Don’t let yourself off of the hook, but don’t beat yourself up, either.
- Change your motivation. Using the same example of finishing the pint ice cream, examine the motivation behind your actions. Think about why you ate the whole thing. Were you bored? Sad? Distracted (you were watching GoT, looked down and the thing was gone)? Maybe you had a hard day and thought you deserved it. Next time, think about your motivation and ask yourself if there is a healthier way to soothe your feelings. Maybe you need a hug, or a warm bath, or a walk in nature.
- Be mindful. I’m guessing that if you were mindfully eating the ice cream, you wouldn’t have eaten the whole thing. This is what works for me. If I actually enjoy each bite by mindfully savoring it, I only need a few bites to give me the satisfaction that the whole pint would give me if I were to eat it without thinking about it. Plus, I get all the pleasure and none of the consequences.
- Wear different shoes. If you “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes,” how would your story be different. Sometimes just thinking about someone else’s viewpoint can alter your own. That doesn’t mean you have to change your opinion about something, it just means that you are open to another perspective. Maybe it will help you be a little nicer.
- Be aware of your Mean Girl. Melissa Ambrosini coined this phrase and I’m shamelessly stealing it. Your Mean Girl is that niggling little voice that says you’re not good enough, or don’t deserve better, or you can’t do something. She holds you back from becoming your best self. We all have her. The trick is to catch her in the act and shut her up so you can write a more positive, empowered story.
Change Your Story to Improve Your Health
How does all of this help your health? Your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and even your spiritual connection directly impact your health. Emotions (thoughts, feelings) pull strings with hormones, peptides, and chemicals that send signals throughout the body. If you are in a high state of stress (or perceived stress), for example, your body reacts differently than if you are calm and rested.
I’m sure we all have heard the foreboding statistics on the negative health consequences of stress (high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, inflammation, depression, digestive difficulty…). What about the positive effects of happiness (take the stress list and reverse it)? Some companies are even making vacations mandatory and offering bonuses for time spent volunteering. These things increase our perception of well-being as well as productivity.
You are in control of your story. If your story is that your life is fantastic, even if you don’t have the best of everything, your life will be fantastic. If your story is that your life sucks, even if you have the best of everything, your life will suck. Simple as that.
If you find this useful, there’s a good chance your friends will, too. Share this with your friends right away while you are thinking of it. While you’re at it, check out my social pages on Facebook @nourishmewellness and Instagram @nourishmehc. Thanks for reading!